Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Whose Job? And How? Part 2 - Surviving the Tuts

I'm hot and sticky, trying to keep my toddler still and quiet while someone in the meeting prays out very slowly and softly. I see people straining to hear over the noise of my protesting child. He kicks his legs and accidentally knocks over his brother's blackcurrant squash all over someone's expensive bible. Could it get any worse? I feel the eyes on me and I see the mouths begin to tut and heads start to slowly shake. How come I am the only mother in here with the misbehaving toddler?

At least, that's how it feels.

The truth of the matter is, the toddler isn't (always) misbehaving. He's just being himself in a room not especially set up for small children. And he's probably not the only one.

As tempting as it is (and believe me, I have sat and sobbed my way through church meetings) we shouldn't just give up taking our small children to meet with the church family, because that is exactly what it is - family. We need each other, including noisy, small children who won't sit still. So how do we actually survive without going insane?

I don't want to give a list of 'do's and don'ts' here because each family is very different, but there are some principles that can be applied to most of us.

Firstly, know that God loves children. He WANTS them to come to him, even if they shout and have biscuit crumbs all over their faces and mud on their trousers from the park which you didn't notice before you left the house and then hastily tried to clean off with a baby wipe.

Secondly, having children around helps the adults who've forgotten what it's like to be a child to think about God's fathering of us. Seeing a little one run up to their Dad with open arms and then be swung around reminds us that God wants us to run into his arms so that he can delight in us. Children can often be a living statement of how God wants us to be.

Thirdly, go prepared. There is absolutely no way a small child who has just learnt to walk is going to sit still for an hour. They have new skills to show off! It is also impossible for even an older child to engage for that long (and let's be honest, I think sometimes it's tricky for us adults too). So we need to be prepared with activities, toys, crayons, paper - anything that you know will keep your child's attention for a short while. I used to sit right at the front with mine so they could see what was going on (and everyone else could see our parenting battles too...) and sing and worship from my place on the floor doing jigsaw puzzles or playing with play dough. As they grew older we would take instruments for them to play and join in with. Even now they are slightly older, I still find that they struggle sometimes to engage for the whole time. We always explain difficult words in songs and give them pens and paper and they often write out or draw their prayers so they are still joining in, but not necessarily singing.

Lastly, let's make sure that praying, singing and all the other things that happen when the church family meets together become 'normal' activities. If we are doing all these things at home, then our kids will naturally begin to join in when it happens somewhere else too.

Of course, church was never meant to be sitting in cold rows facing the front with everyone having to keep quiet until the music begins. Church in the New Testament was full of noise, chatter, excitement, hugs, tears, food and probably smells too. Children would have been welcomed and joined in with the fun as much as any adults. So, next time you begin to dread the tuts, remember that God is never tutting. Whilst your sons (and I speak from experience) are having a competition over who can make the best fart noises during someone's prayer, God is probably chuckling to himself, delighting in the sincerity and fun of the children who have been brought to him.

1 comment:

Athol Few said...

This is a great piece on Children in church,